Expressly Frustrating


Walking for many kilometres in last night’s pouring rain because I had mistakingly caught an express bus does not make me warm to public transport.

The bus driver gave me a stern lecture about how it was clearly an Xpress and it was not their responsiblity.

Even some passengers joined in the chorus sternly reminding me they catch an X bus because they do not want to be bothered with people getting off before the first designated stop and there should be no exception if you make a mistake.

I accept that. It was my mistake and I understand  the purpose of an Express bus and why people catch it.

But I had missed seeing the X in the designation sign in the front of the bus because a number of buses arrived at once in Symonds St in the misty heavy rain and all I saw was the sign on the side of the bus which mentioned where it was going, not that it was an Xpress.

On my miserable wet walk back towards where I had hoped to go, I lamented how I can understand why people don’t catch PT.

If I were running the bus company, I would do something about the confusing routes and making it more visible what you are catching.

It’s easy to work it out when the bus is at its first stop and you have time to check.

Not so when a bus suddenly arrives in the rain and you have a second to wave down the driver and grab it.

This bus clearly says it stops everywhere

Branding the various LINK buses with different colours is the way to go.

I would designate certain buses in the fleet as Express buses and paint them accordingly instead of just relying on people to catch the fact there is an X in the sign when a cluster of buses arrive on a dark wet night.

I also caught a bus the other day that half way through the journey headed off into another direction and one many kilometrres from where I was going.

Again another wet miserable walk when I got off when the bus finally reached a bus stop.

It turned out to be some odd number rare bus that does this tiki tour once in a very blue moon although it still said it was going midtown - and said nothing on the sign it was going via this weird route.

I’m obviously not unseasoned using PT but two bad experiences in  a week makes me wonder why operators don’t make life easier instead of everyone having to stare for a second at the sign when the bus arrives and hopes it’s really going where it says it will.

A lot needs to be done to make PT easier.





  1. KarlHansen says:

    Jon, the reason why they don’t like to do the branding (too much) is that it reduces flexibility. Assume that they have X buses for route A, and X buses for route B.

    Now one morning, two buses on Route B break down. They have to shuffle buses around, and end up using some Route A-branded buses, because that is all they have (one presumes that the people would rather have SOME bus show up, rather than none). So now the Route B people, trained to ignore everything but the branded buses, may well miss the replacement buses outright. Worse, some people wanting to use Route A will get on board (that’s my colour bus…), and be totally livid that they are shuttled along on the wrong route.

    It’s not such an easy thing.

  2. Jim C says:

    Lol. That happened to me when I was in Wgtn. This time it was totally my fault as I didn’t even look at the destination sign when I got on at the top of Taranaki Street, but realised I was on the Karori West bus. I had a lovely ride over a route I used to drive when I was a bus driver. Got to the Karori tunnel alighted and got a bus back down to Lambton Quay and worked to the railway station. Just shows how good the Snapper Card is

  3. Mat T says:

    There is absolutely no consistency over whether you can get off an express bus before the first designated stop (at least on Urban Express services). It seems to be entirely at the whim / discretion of the driver. Some say that “if there’s a bus stop there, you can ring the bell and get off” some you have to plead with & cajole to let you off, and some adamantly refuse, saying it’s company policy not to stop there. I, and several people I know have had blazing arguments with bus drivers about this issue. It’s a nightmare if, like me, you usually have to catch an X service because of the time and locations of your commute.

  4. LucyJH says:

    But I totally agree our buses are unnecessarily confusing. I have navigated bus systems in other countries, where I didn’t speak the language(and in some cases couldn’t read the script) with more ease than in NZ.Surely there must be something they can do to make it easier.

  5. richard says:

    The joys of travel
    I remember as long ago as 1967 catching a train to Birmingham from London. Some stopped at Watford Junction (limit of Underground) and some didn’t.

    On the way back the chap sitting next to me was going to Watford. The look of horror on his face as we sailed through Watford Junction at 100mph is still remembered to this day. He had to go to London and return by “Tube”

    This problem is not new or limited to NZ but for reliability and seamless changes one needs to try the German railways

  6. Andrew says:

    My route, the 243 Express, is a bit of a problem in this regard.

    The destination sign used to alternate between “243 MIDTOWN” (or “243 NEW LYNN”) and “243 EXPRESS” but last time the signs were updated a couple of months ago, someone screwed up.

    Now they alternate between “243 MIDTOWN” or “243 NEW LYNN”, then “243 SANDRINGHAM ROAD”, then finally “243 EXPRESS”.

    Inbound expresses only make one stop on Sandringham Rd, and outbound buses make *none*, so “SANDRINGHAM ROAD” really shouldn’t be on the display at all. It’s misleading.

    On top of that, the word “EXPRESS” shows for only five out of every 15 seconds - more time than it takes for a bus to come into sight of, and pass a stop in many cases.

    I put in a complaint close to a month ago and even got called back about it, yet the problem persists.

    Passengers wanting to get off early is a regular feature of these evening express runs, as is passengers trying to wave it down at stops where it expresses past in the mornings.

    Just this morning, I heard the bus driver explain to an intending passenger that “the sign is rubbish”, so drivers are aware of it.

  7. KarlHansen says:

    Well, I guess an easy way to improve the situation is to simply name those routes X - i.e. X243. That’s easier to see on the bus, isn’t it?

  8. Kurt says:

    Good point Andrew. The destination sign that says everything but only if you have 30 seconds to stand there and watch it cycle through its various displays was obviously one of those great theories that is useless on a bus. Fantastic for adversting on the Good Year blimp though.

    And the small size of the destination sign on the side is worse while some buses don’t have them at all.

    A standardised bold luminous “Xpress” or similar bus company agreed sign placed in a consistent part of the bus such as the lower left screen would be an improvement.

  9. penfold says:

    What would be wrong with Express buses having large signs manually put on similar to the old school bus signs. If they had them on the front of the bus below the driver, on the side next to the door and on the back then it would be easy to see even in poor weather conditions. It may not be fancy but it would be fairly simple to do and keep flexibility in the fleet (as opposed to having painted up colour schemes for express).

  10. Matt L says:

    I thought I read on here a while ago that asking with installing pids at some rail stations that AT were going to standardise the bus displays. Hopefully when that happens it will clear up the confusion a bit.

    I also remember there where always people who would get confused with express trains and would have to travel all the way to New Lynn and get a train back to where they wanted.

  11. tbird says:

    Maybe because I rarely catch buses, but I always tell the driver where I’m going as I get on and pay.

    Hopefully if I’m on the wrong bus, wrong direction, express, they’ll let me know. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation that holds everyone up, just “corner of Willis and Queen?” and a nod from the driver reassures me so I’m not panicking in my seat.

  12. George D says:

    You’re lucky you knew where to catch the bus in the first place. If I ever have to catch a bus from the city, finding out where in the entire inner city it leaves from is almost impossible. Dozens of locations, none of them signposted.

    There are many things about Auckland transport done badly. This is one of them.

  13. Stranded on the North Shore says:

    Jon, I feel sorry for you. I used to catch X buses, and many people got on and I saw them experience similar episodes like you. I felt sorry for them. A good telling off and let them go maybe 1 stop later would be nice, but it only happened sometimes. But what about adopting a completely NEW concept for Express Buses - that will only work once the “transfers” will be enabled on HOP. Here is it: Express Buses ONLY STOP in major stops, in your case that would be: Britomart, Symonds Street by Uni, Symonds Street overbridge, Kingsland, New North/St Lukes Rds, Mt Albert, Avondale Train Station, etc… and normal buses would stop everywhere… then you’d catch Express to the last stop before your destination and change over to a normal bus for the last few stops. Of course that would work in busy streets, like Dominion Rd… In fact that system is already in place AND WORKING WELL in Vancouver, Canada. And it’s called B-LINE there. That’s it! When I heard that B-LINE is coming to Auckland, I couldn’t hide my excitement, now that it’s in place, it didn’t really make a huge difference, except for maybe marketing… Does anyone else think it’s a good idea, or am I alone? (remember that will only work if the transfers are included on HOP).

  14. Harry McDonald says:

    tbird: the whole idea of the hop card is not to use the driver’s time. They already get all sorts of ridiculous questions.
    Stranded: that sounds a great idea. It would need new bus stop signs as in London where the have compulsory stops for major attractions/stations etc.

  15. Takuya says:

    So I would say, show as like 243X on sighn… people oviosly understand wether bus is EXPRESS or NOT!
    Express buses are stopping all stops, It just shortcutting normal local bus route. Why thay make different name like EXPRESS, FLYER, FLYOVER, LIMITED STOP confusing people…

    I don’t really understand what is different between these name. Meaning, number of bus they stops?


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